Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Also at the Lower Falls

with 42 comments

Also at the Lower Falls in McKinney Falls State Park on April 15th I saw a great blue heron, Ardea herodias. According to John Tveten, this is the largest of our herons, standing some 4 ft. (1.2m) tall. Of the various pictures that I took of it, I’ve chosen to show this one because of the curious way the line of the bird’s bill, with its orange-brown lower part, seemed to me from a distance to follow around into the similarly colored and presumably iron-rich stain on the rock behind it that was roughly a mirror image of the heron’s neck. Notice how the dark patch on the bird’s shoulder also finds echoes in the dark depressions in the rock.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 5, 2016 at 5:13 AM

42 Responses

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  1. beautiful and majestic bird. to see them fly always fills me with wonder.


    May 5, 2016 at 6:29 AM

  2. Steven: He sure is a handsome rascal. Nice capture


    May 5, 2016 at 7:24 AM

  3. Very good looking bird.


    May 5, 2016 at 8:06 AM

    • The largest and therefore most imposing of the herons not only in Texas but all of North America.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 5, 2016 at 9:41 AM

  4. Great bird, great picture(s)!


    May 5, 2016 at 8:46 AM

    • I was fortunate that it didn’t move around much for several minutes so I could get pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 5, 2016 at 9:42 AM

    • By the way, your parentheses around the last s in your comment are appropriate because the closer view is zoomed in from the first photograph. Having a lot of megapixels is an advantage.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 5, 2016 at 5:04 PM

  5. That mirroring is very striking. Aren’t they lovely birds? I never tire of coming across them.


    May 5, 2016 at 10:37 AM

    • The mirroring was an unusual opportunity, unlike anything I recall. The creeks and ponds here lead to encounters with herons from time to time. Often they’re too distant or fly away when I approach. This one was still farther away than I would’ve like but close enough that I could still get some decent pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 5, 2016 at 3:41 PM

  6. One of the few birds that I can photograph…just large enough to shoot with our lesser glass, so to speak. I also see the stain as a reverse of the heron’s curve.

    Steve Gingold

    May 5, 2016 at 1:21 PM

    • I got as close as the terrain allowed and used the longest lens I have, the 70–200 with 1.4x extended, but longer would have been better. My impression through the viewfinder was of two herons, because of the stain.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 5, 2016 at 3:34 PM

  7. Love the mirroring in that stain! It’s a very similar looking heron to our grey but apparently about 20cm taller!! That’s quite a lot.

    • A magical mirroring, the gain of a stain.

      In doing some research this morning I read about your gray heron and saw that it’s large but not quite as large as the American one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 5, 2016 at 3:37 PM

      • Yep, not quite! You see how similar they are though? It’s one that I photograph a lot on the canal 🙂 Seeing them roosting and nesting up in the trees is slightly surreal!

        • Sounds like you get more and better views of your heron than I do of ours. I’m glad for what I can get.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 5, 2016 at 5:02 PM

          • People walk and cycle right past Harry without even spotting him!! I have to say that he can hold a pose like the best statue 😉 Yes, we’re blessed with some wildlife! It’s all a matter of where in the world you live. There’s ideal habitat for them here. Lots of waterways, lakes and ponds with relatively short flying distances between them 🙂 There’s even a large number of herons in Hyde Park as the Serpentine is perfect for them! I’ve sat within a metre of one and, yes, it was awesome 😀

  8. Beautiful shot – they are such elegant birds


    May 5, 2016 at 7:59 PM

  9. I wonder if this one isn’t developing its breeding plumage. It doesn’t have any of the black head plumes, but those feathers along its throat and chest certainly are long. The green lores (the bit of skin between the bill and the eyes) turn blue during breeding, and the bill and legs change color, too. Judy Lovell has a wonderful closeup of a great blue in full regalia.

    I’d love to see one all decked out, but it’s enough just to have them hanging around. I was interested to see this one at the Falls. They’ll hang out at the edge of the surf in Galveston from time to time, plucking fish from the waves. The combination of the live bird and the rock stain makes me think of primitive cave art. I’d rather have a heron as a model than a musk-ox.


    May 5, 2016 at 10:50 PM

    • It seems proximity has given you and Judy Lovell a good sense of the life of a great blue heron. You can probably tell that I don’t know much about it. Everything you’ve said about the bird is new to me, including the word lore, unrelated to the second part of folklore. I see now that lore is an Anglicized version of Latin lōrum, which meant ‘thong.’ If I came across a musk-ox at McKinney Falls, whether alive or painted on rocks, that would be the stuff of folklore

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 6, 2016 at 5:49 AM

  10. Perfect timing! Good to see birds here, Steve. Loved the photo!


    May 6, 2016 at 12:44 AM

  11. Beautiful, avian, portrait.

    Pairodox Farm

    May 6, 2016 at 5:01 AM

  12. Since Ardea herodias means heron heron it seems appropriate to have mirrors and echoes in your photo of this gorgeous bird.


    May 6, 2016 at 5:46 AM

    • I like your double-take on the situation. It gives us a double dip into the Classical languages, first Latin and then Greek. Anyone who invokes etymology for a heron is my hero (or heroine).

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 6, 2016 at 6:08 AM

  13. Very elegant Steve …


    May 8, 2016 at 1:43 PM

  14. […] seen an occasional great blue heron (Ardea herodias) in Austin, but the closest I ever got to one was at Muir Beach on the Pacific coast of California on November […]

  15. […] Along Onion Creek in McKinney Falls State Park on December 20, 2021, I took two rather different pictures with my longest lens. First came the drifting yellowed leaf of a sycamore tree (Platanus occidentalis) that’s shown below. About nine minutes later I panned with the camera to catch a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) in flight over the creek. In 2016 I’d portrayed the same kind of bird at a waterfall a few hundred feet away. […]

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